Monthly Archives: March 2016

Memory vs Archives

 

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Paul Tobin strolling down the memory lane

We recently had Paul Tobin again with us, but this time not as a poet, but as a historical source. He donated pictures from his album from the time he was a student here 1980-1983. He was sittig patiently numbering them and adding names to the faces. He would name the place and the event, from a raging party to a RAG week. Two things I would take away from that session:
1. Archives are no match for human memory. We could have records of students, their names, dates of leaving and enrolment. But we wouldn’t have the stories that go with them. We wouldn’t know that the board games were all the rage (a picture of two students in the middle of a heated scrabble game), what a shirtless, strangely posed man was doing (he was a show-off), and what is that strange thing in a corner ( a coffee grinder, that at the time was a must-have of every student- obviously:- ). A picture might be worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture demands a thousand words. A thousand words the archives are usually unable to keep.
2.Human memory is no substitute for dating and marking. Paul’s memory is very good. He was able to remember dates, faces and names from over thirty years ago. He could remember the details of parties, places, people, and occasions. But even he would occasionally stumble. A great help was then the notes he made thirty years ago, when the pictures and memories were still fresh. It is so much better to get a picture with date, occasion/place and the people’s names written on the back. This way it would never lose its meaning, even if the human memory fails.
I’m not as good with morals as I would like to be or, as a writer, I should be. But archives need people to fill in where paper and pen cannot. And people need archives at the limits of their memories. So maybe it is time to pop into local archives, see what the archives can do for you and what you can do for the archives.

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Filed under guests, long time ago, musings

Mrs Harvey- the poker-wielding matron of St.Mark’s

Short one this week- still quite busy.

Speaking of maids, I thought I’ll introduce you to a very special person among the early St.Mark’s staff- Mrs.Harvey. She was the head of the servants in St.Mark College and a long-time employee of the Coleridge family. Coleridge’s daughter, Cristabel, mentions her in Memorials of St Marks College. She was a vigorous person, somewhat of a substitute mother to the young men of the College. It is said that once there was a rumour of burglars in the school and she, being a lady of eighty at the time, would walk the corridors with a fire poker in her hand checking under beds just in case. When asked about a ghost that supposedly was haunting the College halls, she would respond that ‘me and master never allowed nothing of the sort’. She must have been a fearless person, with her feet firmly on the ground.

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The old lady in this picture is her; this image is also one of the oldest in our collection. She was a kind lady, but she knew her stuff and ran the household and the servants well. Funny, how we know nothing of the kitchen maid, but we know who Mrs Harvey was, what she was like and what she looked like. History is a fickle element, remembers some and forgets the others. And how about you? Will it remember you or drop you into the sea of oblivion?

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Filed under long time ago, people, photos

No post this week- sorry

Sorry, no post this week. I’ve dropped the ball being involved in a special project. I promise to tell all about it later.

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